Table of contents
- My background and how I travel
- Who is the Away Aluminum Edition for?
- Unboxing and first impressions
- What I like about the luggage
- Potential Issues
- Aluminum Bigger Carry-on vs Away’s Standard Bigger Carry-on
- Final thoughts
- Long-term notes
My background and how I travel
Not a bad view in Terminal Z. Shot during my layover in Frankfurt on the way back from India.
As a tourist, I travel a good amount. For the last five years I’ve taken between four and eight major trips per year. I think that’s a good bit. However, I’m not a business traveler. I have friends that are on the road 3 or 4 days a week. So take that perspective into account.
Also, know that I hate dealing with luggage at airports. If possible, I tend to avoid checking bags. I don’t like waiting at the counter to check bags—I always check-in online—and I hate waiting at the baggage claim after a long flight.
That’s why having a durable, spacious carry-on is incredibly important to me.
I’ve taken the Aluminum Away bag on four trips so far this year—The Bahamas, Charelson, Miami and most recently to Chennai, India. As with most reviews, I’ll continue to keep long term notes on the bag.
Who is the Away Aluminum Edition for?
The Aluminum Edition luggage is for people who love Away’s design and practicality, but want a high-end feel.
The shiny aluminum case stands out in airports—people will ask about it. More subtle are little details like the clicking sound that the bag makes when the latches close. Or how the leather-covered straps lay flat softly when not in use.
This is not the best Away bag for most people. I’d say most people would be better off with their standard Bigger Carry-on. However, if you don’t care about price and want an attractive bag that might actually last forever, this is a good bet.
Unboxing and first impressions
Away has seriously thought about the first time experience. It’s not about the bag. It’s about your next vacation.
Here the Away welcome packet rips open to reveal a manual and a post card.
It’s so well executed. That little palm tree just feels like vacation. You can smell it in the air. It’s a very nice touch.
What I like about the luggage
Details, details details.
The primary reason you’re going to buy the Aluminum Edition is because it is possibly the most attractive piece of luggage on the market. The brushed aluminum gives off a matte finish. It stands out in airports and—well—just about anywhere you go.
Here you can see some of the other details of the bag. The studs show the construction of the bag. Unlike the case, the studs have a polished finish. It’s a nice contrast.
No stickers here. The logo is brushed aluminum with inset letters.
Compartments and organization
The inside of the bag is cleverly organized. The left side has a larger compartment that I’ve used for shoes toiletries and items that can be a little loose. There’s also a handful of utility compartments.
The right side is where your clothes go. There are two buckles that function like tow straps. You stuff as much as you can into the bag and then wench it down as far as it will go. It’s an efficient way to pack for vacations.
So what does it actually look like to pack with this bag? Here’s are some shots I took of while packing my bag for my trip to Chennai, India.
The left side of the bag is intended for items that fit a little loosely. Of course you can also fill it with clothes. This trip to India is for a wedding, so I’ve packed a suit , a couple of tie options and a belt here.
Away actually makes a garment sleeve designed to fit this bag. Unfortunately, I realized it too late. There was no way it would arrive before my trip.
The only thing I couldn’t fit was a pair of dress shoes. I put them into a drawstring back, which I carried on as my personal item.
The right side is for clothes. Here I have 2 oxford shirts, two pairs of shorts, one pair of chinos. There are two t-shirts and two pairs of athletic shorts. I’ve also got enough socks and underwear for 4 days and 3 nights.
Everything packed into the suitcase. The straps really help compact the clothes so the bag can shut. Every bit helps since hard-shell luggage has no give.
The netted compartments are also useful. I’ve got the battery charger and international plug adapters to the right. That compartment is also perfect for an iPad or Macbook. I’ve mostly kept important papers in the ones to the left—printed copy of my passport and travel documents.
Battery and travel plug adapters
Away refers to their bags as smart luggage. This mostly refers to the ejectable 10,000 mAh battery that fits under the handle. It has been incredibly convenient in airports where charging stations are scarce or on long flights that don’t have outlets available.
I used my phone pretty heavily on my flights from Atlanta to Chennai. Over a 16-hour period I probably recharged my phone to full twice. That used about half the battery’s charge.
One thing to note—the battery only has USB-A charging ports. If you’ve got a Pixel or other devices that have USB-C chargers, you might need a USB-C to USB-A Adapter. I picked up this Amazon Basics one, and it has worked fine for me.
This is the plug that charges the bag’s battery (or your phone) along with a series of international adapters. The adapters simply slide over the U.S. outlet adapter when it’s closed. It’s a rather clever design. The two-pronged charger worked perfectly when I was in India.
360 degree Hinomoto wheels
Afar Magazine asked Away co-founder, Jen Rubio, about her favorite feature of the bag. Her answer? The wheels.
I love the wheels. It took seven iterations to get them perfect. They’re made by the Japanese designer Hinomoto. These wheels just don’t exist on luggage under $1,000—except for ours.
And the wheels are a marvel. They turn smooth and silently. It makes the bag feel like it is gliding across the airport floor. Perhaps other than zippers and latches, wheels are the most important part of any luggage.
The bag has two 3-digit combo locks—one for each latch. I like the satisfying thunk sound made when they spring open. It’s one of those tiny design details that feels great.
Also, this is where the TSA lock so the government can invade your privacy. Unfortunately, that’s a requirement for all locked luggage these days.
If you aren’t buying aluminum luggage for the aesthetics, you’re buying it to last forever.
Away offers a lifetime warranty for its aluminum and polycarbonate luggage. This doesn’t cover dents, scratches or other cosmetic damage. But it does cover things like:
- Cracks or breaks in the shell
- Wheels, handles, or telescoping handles that break off and are no longer usable
- Zippers that can no longer be opened or closed
- Fabric tears that render front pocket fabric non-functional
The battery has a two year warranty, which makes sense. I’d expect any sort of electronics to go long before the suitcase does.
While I have been incredibly happy with Away’s Aluminum Bigger Carry-on, it’s not without flaws.
Dents and scratches
While aluminum luggage is incredibly durable, they do tend to collect dents and scratches over time. This was the biggest question mark for me when I purchased the bag.
So how does the bag look after 6 months and a few major trips?
These came from my trip to the Bahamas. I think it probably came from a soft rubber or something in the plane’s cargo hold. I’m pretty sure I can wipe buff out the marks, but I haven’t tried it yet.
A sticker that was placed on my bag in Chennai. Not exactly easy to remove. However, I’ve left it for the time being.
The bag scratches easier than I had hoped. Many overhead compartments have rough edges and little bumps here and there in security lines add up over time. I was expecting the bag to have more dents. The only dents I’ve found are two little ones near the wheels. No idea how they got there, but I’ll accept the character that it adds.
Perhaps, I’ll update these pictures with a few more wear and tear photos. That way, you can decide if you like how it ages or not.
Weight limits and European airlines
The weight of this bag was an unexpected issue on my trip to India. Lufthansa and, apparently, most European airlines are incredibly strict about carry-on weight limits. Lufthansa requires all carry-on bags to be under 8 kg, which is about 17.6 lbs. That’s pretty tough when the Aluminum Away bag weighs 11.2 lbs with nothing in it.
My bag weighed 11 kg (24.4 lbs) at the check-in in Atlanta. I had to fight with the agent there to get my bag onboard. She asked if I had a laptop in the bag—as they offer some leniency with laptops. I told her I didn’t, but the suitcase had an ejectable battery. That was good enough for her and let me keep my bag.
How could this be avoided? I don’t want to have to jump through hoops to bring this carry-on on the plane. My initial thought was I should switch to Away’s standard polycarbonate bag. However, that’s only three pounds lighter. It wouldn’t have made a difference in the above scenario.
Perhaps, it’s just a European thing? People stowing bags slows down the boarding process and likely creates a liability for the airlines. During my layover in Frankfurt, I hardly saw anyone with actual luggage at the gates. Everyone had a backpack or something smaller than my bag.
I think the solution is to just expect your bags to get checked when flying a European airline.
Aluminum Bigger Carry-on vs Away’s Standard Bigger Carry-on
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this review, if you’re thinking about purchasing an Away bag, I would encourage you to go with the standard bag over the aluminum ones. The standard back is lighter, larger and much cheaper than the aluminum one.
The above picture shows the overhead view comparing it side-by-side with my girlfriend’s regular Bigger Carry-on. It’s obvious that the standard bag is bigger. If you’re looking at the dimensions online, they don’t seem that different. This is because the feet and handles of the aluminum bag take up much more space. There’s a 7L difference in capacity!
I’m a light packer, so it’s not a big deal. However, if you struggle to get everything into a bag to begin with, you might want to go with the original bag.
|Feature||Standard Bigger-Carry On||Aluminum Edition|
|Closure Method||Zipper||Dual Latches|
|Exterior measurements||22.7” x 14.7” x 9.6”||22.7" x 14.5" x 9.6"|
|Interior measurements||21” x 14.5”||20" x 13"|
|Weight (/w Battery)||8.4 lbs||11.2 lbs|
So, should you buy Away’s Aluminum Bigger Carry-on?
If money’s not an issue, and you absolutely want the best-looking luggage out there. By all means, this is the bag for you. It is a spectacular piece of craftsmanship, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
However, for most people the best carry-on bag is Away’s standard polycarbonate bags. They are cheaper, lighter, have more capacity and share the same great features such as a removable battery, Hinomoto wheels and a lifetime warranty.
The best luggage for most peoplePractical, functional and tough—Away's polycarbonate suitcases are the best pieces of luggage for most people. It's the right combination of cost, design, practicality and durability. I own the Bigger Carry-on and recommend it to most.
February 9, 2019: After much deliberation I decided to order the Aluminum Edition instead of the regular Bigger Carry-on. Posted some unboxing pictures once it arrived.
March 26, 2019: Back from my first trip with the bag—a long weekend in Charleston. Bag worked perfectly. Didn’t really need the battery though.
May 22, 2019: Trip to Miami went well. I had enough room for 3 nights and 4 days worth of stuff. I think 4 nights may realistically be the max that fits in this bag though. At least without doing the wash.
June 25, 2019: First international flight to the Bahamas. I was able to carry it on the plane on the flight from Atlanta to Nassau. However we had a tiny plane for the flight from Nassau Governors Harbour Airport and I had to check the bag. It got a few scratches, but they are only noticeable up close.
September 4, 2019: Had my first issues with Away’s bag on my Lufthansa flight to Chennai, India. The carry-on limit is 8 kg or about 17.6 lbs. Apparently European airlines are very strict about carry-on weight. My bag came in at 11.6 kg and I had to fight with the agent to let me bring it on my flight going both directions. I wrote a bit more about this incident in Potential issues.
June 20, 2020: I’m planning to sell my Aluminum Bigger Carry-on and purchase one of the polycarbonate ones. Think I’m also going to purchase a medium. The aluminum one is an excellent suitcase, but it does make you stand out a bit more than I’d like in airports. If you’re interested send me a DM or reach out to me on Twitter @samuelrsolomon.
Stacey Leasca, Why Away’s Most Expensive Carry-on Is Worth the Splurge, Travel and Leisure, Published 6/3/2019
Erica Ho, The Key Difference Between Polycarbonate and Aluminum Suitcases, Map Happy, Published 12/11/2018
Amar Hussain, Away Travel Carry-On Luggage Review [Worth Buying?], Upgraded Points, Last updated 6/5/2019
All about the battery, Away.com, Retrieved 9/4/2019
Away Lifetime Limited Warranty, Away.com, Retrieved 9/5/2019
Away Bigger Carry-On Review, Charmed Traveler, Published 5/22/2018
Review: Ricardo Dash 20" Dual Wheel Spinner Carry-On- Costco, FlyerTalk Forums, Retrieved 9/4/2019
Joe Supan, Away Luggage Review, Reviews.com, Last updated 4/2/2019
Sarah Purkrabek, How Away Revolutionized the Future of Smart Suitcases, Afar, Published 12/8/2015
Carry-on baggage rules at Lufthansa, Lufthansa, Retrieved 9/4/2019